Picks and Pans Review: Cathedral

updated 10/17/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/17/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Raymond Carver

For Carver fans—and their number grows with the publication of each volume of his unique short fictions—these dozen new stories will be a godsend. The reader feels that Carver is somehow revealing astonishing information about kinds of people seldom seen in fiction. They work at jobs they don't like, or they lose their jobs and drift; they drink, but don't get drunk; sex is always crucial, even if it's on the periphery. There is remarkable tension in every story. In The Compartment a man goes to Europe to visit a son he hasn't seen for eight years. At the last minute the father realizes he doesn't want to have such an encounter. The title story is about a man who must deal with a blind visitor, a friend of his wife. They drink and smoke dope, and the husband then finds he needs to describe a cathedral to a man who has never seen one. There is a moment in this story, as the character draws a cathedral for the blind man, that he recognizes a unique, powerful sensation has hold of him, and it can never happen again. That kind of realization often happens to Carver characters. His prose is deceptively simple. It is also incredibly effective. (Knopf, $13.95)

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